Leona Tyler was born May 10, 1906 in Chetek, Wisconsin. Born into a typical family of the time, Leona’s father, Leon, worked outside of the home as an accountant and house restoration contractor while her mother, Bessie, stayed at home and cared for the family. Leona was one of four children, all of whom were boys except for Leona. After women received the right to vote, Bessie believed that it was a concrete sign that men and women were equal, and treated Leona as such in comparison to her brothers. Bessie’s beliefs about the equality between the sexes were the influence Leona needed for her moral principles that led her into psychological work.
Leona graduated high school at the age of fifteen, and soon after received her Bachelor of the Arts degree in English from the University of Minnesota (at age 19). Despite her major being English, Leona was also very interested in the field of science. This led her to complete her Ph. D. in psychology, which was obtained from the University of Minnesota in 1940, at the age of 34.
Professional Life and Work
Leona became a professor at the University of Oregon in 1940. Soon after, she joined the university’s department of psychology. In 1941, Leona took it upon herself to organize a counseling service for the veterans of World War II. Years later, this service she created became the official counseling center at the University of Oregon. Leona then published her first book titled “The Psychology of Human Differences” in 1947. This book outlined the psychological differences that Leona felt existed in people, and was heavily influenced by her writing and counseling which led her to reevaluate her ideas about human nature. In “The Psychology of Human Differences,” Leona blended the ideas of Carl Rogers, psychoanalytic theory, and existentialism to create her own view of behavior. In 1965, she became the Dean of Graduate School and remained in that position until she retired at the age of 65 in 1971. Between the years of 1967 and 1968, Leona wrote alongside Florence Goodenough on the latest revision of “Developmental Psychology.” After this, in 1969, Leona wrote another book titled “The Work of the Counselor.” Right around the time this book was written, Leona switched her ideas from behavioristic to cognitive, which is seen throughout the book. The book also includes work from her longitudinal study that looked at why people made certain decisions about their direction and development, mainly as people thought about careers. Leona Tyler is also known for her creation of the Choice Pattern Technique. This technique explored the differences that are present within people across different cultures with respect to a person’s individual choice. Subjects would be given a pile of cards with occupations, and then they would have to sort them into piles based on their interest or disinterest. After this, Leona would study the reasons behind why the subjects would sort the cards in a specific way. This technique allowed her to study the differences between people and the choices they make, not only with occupations but with other choices as well. Lastly, Tyler coined the idea of the “Theory of Possibilities.” This basically said that during development there are many possibilities for a person to become or choose, and these possibilities eventually turn into a limited number of actualities, all by the choice of the individual. As a result of this, some opportunities are missed. However, despite some opportunities being missed, the person will be able to have some of their potentials actualized, whether consciously or unconsciously, leading them to be a developed person. Leona Tyler conducted research, performed counseling, and wrote books and articles (totaling over 100) that continue to influence psychology today.
- · President of the Western Psychological Association
- · The American Psychological Association (Division 17, Counseling Psychology) named their highest award after her
- · During the Mid 1960s, elected to the American Psychological Association board of directors
- · Appointed the dean of the University of Oregon in 1965 (Graduate School)
- · Elected the president of the American Psychological Association in 1972, becoming the 4th women to be elected to this position and the 81st president
Leona Tyler died at the age of 86 in Eugene, Oregon. Her cause of death was heart failure due to a series of unfortunate illnesses and accidents.
Relevance to Class Materials
Much of Leona Tyler’s work focused on the individual differences that exist between people, specifically in reference to decision making about career choices. This can be studied between cultures, and more importantly to our class, genders. We could use her Choice Pattern Technique to study the differences that exist in the choices that females make verses males, and then use that to see what differences exist between the genders. This can also be used to study patterns of decision making between females of different cultures, and to get an idea of choices that certain girls make while other girls do not. In addition, Leona Tyler did much work on counseling. Counseling applies to every field of psychology and is used heavily today in the world. Leona redefined the definition of counseling, separating it completely from the idea of psychotherapy. To Leona, counseling was a means of encouraging natural developmental processes while exploring the differences between individuals and their experiences with decision making and choices. Through this method of counseling, the differences between men and women can be studied. As a woman, Leona Tyler was appointed to many positions, some that women rarely inhabited, such as the president of the American Psychological Association. Since this is a woman’s studies class, I feel that it is important to note her accomplishments as a female in her time. Overall, Leona’s work on decision-making, counseling, and individual differences can be applied to the study of women as well as people and society as a whole.